Графични страници
PDF файл

tello" with having deceived him about may not be so, - this, after the preMr. Everett, complaining of his be- tension to know my birthplace, life, havior to Dr. Sleigh and others who death, and miracles, and an assertion had befriended him; telling him that on his part to have had, or seen, a Dr. Sleigh, to whom he referred, correspondence with the Executive of doubted his Spanish commission, and Maine, in my regard, is very diplobelieved him to have been a mem- matic - very! - but his Excellency ber of the “Hunter's Association," — may be easy on this head. I do not a band of horse-thieves in Canada, — share now the military glory and honor and signifying, in language not to be of fellowship with that very numerous misunderstood, that the family had body of generals of the United States given up all hope of him.

* Militia ; and if evidence may be proThe next information we had was duced that I was attended by a staff, that the General had turned up at I assure his Excellency, that it was Havre, and was about being married only to have my boots cleaned by a to the daughter of a wealthy banker, captain, to be shaved by a major, to and carried a commission as Major- be helped by a colonel, and to get my General from the Governor of Maine! meals at the private personal headAnd then, after a lapse of two years, quarters of a Gineral at one dollar that he had been travelling with a per day.” British nobleman, whose baggage he And here I stop. From that day to had run away with, - that he was this, nothing has been heard of Genarrested for the offence, and tried in eral Bratish; but I should not be surMalta, I do not know with what re- prised to have him reappear, as if he sult ; but I have now before me a had risen from the dead, in some new supplement of the Malta Times of character, and so managing as to deOctober 9, 1844, in Italian, Spanish, ceive the very elect. No such preand English, wherein he refers to tender has appeared since Cagliostro; the testimonials of my friend, Albert and nobody ever succeeded so well Smith, Ex-M. C., and Levi Cutter, in misleading public opinion, and emMayor of Portland; complains bit- broiling so many persons of consideraterly of the late Mr. Carr, Minister of tion, both in this country and in Euthe United States at Constantinople; rope, not excepting the Chevalier d'Eon, and says, among other things, what of and the Princess Cariboo. Many other itself were enough to show that he had strange things might be related of Braclaimed to be a General of the State of tish, as, for example, his great speech Maine, and thereby settling the ques- in the Hungarian Diet, reported in the tion most conclusively and forever. Allgemeine Zeitung, — the most impuHis language is : "To one charge of dent forgery of our day. But this paper Mr. Everett, I plead guilty ; to wit, to is already longer than I intended; and have usurped, or succeeded to gain the I have only to add, that I have reason good opinion of respectable people in to believe now that he was indeed a the United States, and here I am glad, native of Trieste, and that Colonel at the same time, to put Mr. Everett's Stille and Mr. McIlvaine were right mind at rest; he thinks it possible that in saying what they did of him genI may be a General of the State of erally, though wrong in many of the Maine, but he admits only the possi- particulars upon which they chiefly bility, and expresses the hope that it relied.

[ocr errors]

ONo. February evening, more than a year ago, after a drive of fourteen miles over a lonely Kentucky road, I drew rein in front of a huge, rambling wooden building, standing solitary in the midst of the forest. There was no village in sight to account for the presence of so large a structure, no adjacent farms, and, except a little patch in front of the house, no fields, - nothing but the solemn woods which nearly shut it in on every side. I did not ask if this was the Mammoth Cave Hotel. I knew it without asking. Here I was, then, at last, — about to see what I had desired to see ever since I was a boy' But delay frequently comes with the certainty of accomplishing any longcherished desire; and though I had driven with a hasty whip from the railway station fourteen miles away, and though the hotel proprietor offered to procure me a guide that evening, my haste to see the cave was unaccountably over. I ordered a fire in my room, and concluded to wait until morning. It was too early in the season for the usual summer visitors, and I found myself the sole guest in this big, lonesome caravansary, that looked as though a dozen old-fashioned Dutch farm-houses had been placed in the midst of a wood-lot, and then connected by the roofs, the whole forming one straggling, weather-stained, labyrinthine building, full of little nests of rooms, high-pitched gables, cumbrous outside chimney-stacks, cavernous fireplaces, and low, wide corridors open at either. end, where were uncertain shadows, and draughts of damp air that whispered and moaned all night long. In the evening, as I sat before the blazing pile of logs in the fireplace, some one knocked at my door, and a negro servant looked in. Would I like to see the guide?

[ocr errors]

“Certainly. What is his name 2" , “Nicholas, sah, Nicholas ! But we all calls him Ole Nick.” Rather an ominous name, to be sure! but then, if one goes to the regions below, what guide so appropriate 2 On presentation, his Majesty proved to be an interesting black man, considerably past middle age; wrinkled, as none but a genuine negro ever becomes; a short, broad, strong man, with a grizzled beard and mustache, quiet but steady eyes, grave in his demeanor, and concise in his conversation. He tells me of two routes by which I can make a tour through his dominions. The shortest one will require six hours to travel, and at the farthest will take me to the banks of the river Styx, six miles from the entrance to the cave. The other route will take the whole day, and will lead as far as the so-called “Maelström,” —a singular pit, a hundred and seventy-five feet deep, — and place nine miles of gloom between me and this outer world. And with these facts to be juggled and distorted in ridiculous combinations with remembrances of many persons and places in the vagaries of dreams, I went to bed and to sleep. As the sun came up, we went down, — my guide and I, - down a rocky path along the side of a ravine that grew narrower and deeper until we came to a dilapidated house where the ravine seemed to end. Stepping upon the rotting piazza of this old house and facing “right about,” there opened before us, as broad and lofty as the entrance to some ancient Egyptian temple, the mouth of the cave. From where we stood, a path, as wide as an ordinary city sidewalk and as smooth, sloped gently downward through the portal. Turning to the right to avoid the drip of a limpid stream, - that falls over the entrance like a perpetual libation to Pluto, -a few minutes' walk places us many hundred feet vertically beneath the surface, and in the “Rotunda,” an enlargement of the cave, which looks about as large as the interior of Trinity Church, but is in reality larger; being quite as lofty, and measuring at its greatest diameter a hundred and seventy-five feet. Here, as we paused to look, with our flaring lamps poised above our heads, a strange squeaking noise was heard, which seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere in particular. I glanced inquiringly at my guide, in answer to which he simply replied, “Bats,” and pointed to the walls, where, on closer inspection, I found these creatures clinging by thousands, literally blackening the wall, and hanging in festoons a foot or two in length. The manner of forming these festoons was curious enough: three or four bats having first taken hold of some sharp projecting ledge with their hindmost claws, and hanging thereby with their heads downward, others had seized their leathery wings at the second joint, and they too, hanging with downward heads, had offered their wings as holdingplaces for still others; and so the unsightly pendent mass had grown, until in some instances it contained as many as twenty or thirty bats. The wonder seemed that four or five pairs of little claws not so large as those of a mouse could sustain a weight that must have been in some instances as much as three pounds. The mysterious influence of the approaching spring had penetrated even into these abodes of darkness, and aroused in the bats a little life after their long hibernation; and their weak, plaintive squeak, which had something impish in it withal, came from every shadowy recess, and from the dark vault overhead. This “Rotunda” should have been called the “Bower of Bats.” As they all hung too high to reach by other means, I flung my stick at random upward against the wall, and brought down two of the black masses, that writhed helpless upon the stony

floor of the cave. Poor, palpitating things, unable to loose their clutch upon each other's wings, it was hard to say whether they were more disgusting or pitiful. What Eshcol clusters these, to bear back from this Canaan of darkness, saying, “This is the fruit of it !” Such an immense number of bats had harbored and died here from time immemorial, that more than a hundred acres of the earthy floor of the cave had, from their decomposing remains, become impregnated with nitre; and during the years 1812 to 1814, a party of saltpetre-makers took up their residence here. They made great vats in the cave, in which they lixiviated the impregnated earth, and by wooden pipes conveyed it to a place where they boiled the water drawn from the vats. Their rude mechanical contrivances are standing yet, in the same positions in which they were left so long ago; and so dry and pure is the air of the cave, that, though more than half a century has passed, these wooden pipes and vats show no more indication of decay than they did when first put in. In one place my guide dug up from the clayey floor—where it was their custom to feed the oxen employed in drawing the materials to and fro—some corn-cobs, very dry and light, but as perfect as though they were only a few months old. The footprints of the oxen, made in the earth that was then moist, are plainly visible in many places; and the clay has since become almost as hard as stone, so that I found it difficult to make any impression in it with the point of my pocket-knife. A few minutes' walk brought us in front of the “Giant's Coffin,” an enormous rock forty feet in length, which has fallen from the ceiling. The resemblance to a coffin is so strangely exact, that, having heard mention of it before coming in, I recognized it at the first glance. The upper part of the rock is composed of a stratum whiter than the rest, and gives it the appearance of having a border of white ornamentation around it, just below the lid. It rests upon a gigantic bier about ten feet high, and a little longer than the coffin, and the effect is as though some kingly son of Anak were lying in state in this huge sepulchral vault. Near at hand is a cluster of objects, not carved out by the accidents of time or the long attrition of subterranean rivers, as is the case with almost everything else in the cave, but shaped by human hands into a mournful resemblance to cottages; the likeness being all the more pathetic when one learns the fact that for many months a number of benighted human beings made their home here, under the delusion that the air of the cave, which is chemically pure and dry, would cure their pulmonary diseases; and that here, like plants shut out from the generous, fostering sun, they paled and died. The appearance of those who came out after two or three months' residence in the cave is described as frightful. “Their faces," says one who saw them, “were entirely bloodless, eyes sunken, and pupils dilated to such a degree that the iriş ceased to be visible; so that, no matter what the original color of the eye might have been, it appeared entirely black.” These cottages, if by a great stretch of courtesy I may call them such, are very small, consisting each of but one room about ten feet square; they had been built of stones collected in the cave, and laid loosely in the wall without mortar; they had fireplaces and chimneys, good wooden floors, and doors, but no windows, as there was neither light to let in nor prospect to view without. As there was neither rain nor snowfall, neither midday heat nor dew of night, beneath that stony cope, roofs also were useless; so that the structures were only cells that strongly reminded one of sepulchres. I can conceive of nothing more melancholy than the existence of the seven or eight consumptives, who I am told occupied these ante mortem tombs at one time about fifteen years ago. Three died there, and every one of the others who had resided in the cave for ape

riod of two months died within two or three weeks after coming out. Near to these monuments of ignorance and despair, I noticed a monument of another sort, and of later date. —a tribute to one of the most gallant and genial of men, in whom it was fully demonstrated that “the bravest are the tenderest.” It was a pyramidal pile, about eight feet high, of carefully selected stones, laid without mortar, but with mathematical precision; and on one stone near the top was scratched a name dear to every soldier's heart. – “McPherson.” The cells where the living died, and this pile which tells how the memory of the dead yet lives, are the last objects on our route that have any association with the things of this outer world; these are the pillars that mark the beginning of a realm devoid of human association, -its Pillars of Hercules, beyond which is a silent waste whose darkness breeds the wildest mysteries. Walking continuously through the gloom, one loses to some extent the idea of progression. Here he can get no look ahead, no backward view. He is the centre of a little circle of light, beyond which is immeasurable darkness, whence objects seem to come to him like apparitions, changing form as the first and last rays of light fall upon them, as though the shape in which they appear under the full light of the lamp were only some disguise of assumed innocence, which they cast of as they glide silently into the dark again, to take on some semblance too awful for mortal eyes. Farther and farther we went along these arched-cryptlike ways; passing frequently through lofty chambers where the roof could not be discovered, each with some fanciful and often inappropriate name assigned to it, until we came at length to what looked like a window in the side wall of the cave. Peering through this, and holding my lamp high over my head, I could see neither roof nor sides nor bottom, -only the wall in which was the window through which I looked. Upward it was lost in the darkness, and from my breast it descended, perpendicular as a plummet line, until it vanished in the gulf below, from which arose a sound of dripping water. This, my guide informed me, was “Gorin's Dome.” Taking then from his haversack a Bengal light, he ignited it and threw it into the dark void. The sulphurous light shot up and up into a dome unlike anything built by human hands, unless it might be the interior of some tremendous tower, eighty feet in width, and nearly two hundred in height, which the beholder viewed from without, looking inwards through a window placed at two thirds of the entire height from the bottom. The inaccessible floor of this place is nearly level, and the walls strictly perpendicular from base to summit; the whole cavern having been hollowed out by the constant dripping of water holding carbonic acid in solution, which cuts the rock as ordinary water channels the ice of a glacier or the mural face of an iceberg into a semblance of columns, and sometimes into the folds of an immense curtain. The brief light fell upon the distant floor; flashed up once, bringing into strong relief every salient angle in the wonderful walls, and then died out; the awful prospect vanishing like a nightmare vision, and leaving nothing to the sense but the sound of the water dripping into the depths below. The light had burned only half a minute; but so strange was the scene, that this glimpse sufficed to photograph it indelibly in my memory. Gorin's Dome is not the largest of this class of sub-cavities in the cave, being smaller than Mammoth Dome; but it is the first of its class that the tourist sees, and it is viewed from so singular a stand-point that it makes the most startling impression. Five minutes' farther walk brought us to a wooden footbridge, – a narrow, shaky contrivance, with a treacherous footing and a slender hand-rail. Here the bottom of the cave seemed to have WOL. xx. - NO. I22. 43

dropped out, and the roof to have gone in search of it; and but for the dim glimpse of the rock on the other side one might have suspected that this bridge would launch him into that ungeographical locality called, in the old Norse mythology, “Ginnunga Gap,”— a place where there was neither side, edge, nor bottom to anything. The vault overhead is called “Minerva's Dome”; the gulf below is called the “Side-Saddle Pit,” though I failed to discover any degree of appropriateness in the odd name. Standing in the middle of the bridge, my guide flung one of his Bengal lights far upward, in the midst of the slow-falling drops that had already carved out this tremendous well and were still making it larger. The light turned them for an instant into a shower of diamonds; then down it fell, down, down | As in its descent it passed the bridge on which we stood, the shadows of our two figures rushed up the opposite wall, like a pair of demons scared out of their abode by the hissing flame; and Nick, the guide, as he leaned over, looking downward after it, — every one of the innumerable wrinkles in his black face made more distinct, with his white beard and mustache, and the whites of his eyes seeming to glow in the blue elfish light, — was a caricature, half grotesque, almost terrible, of Satan himself. Minerva's Dome and Side-Saddle Pit, both being one place and formed by the same dripping water, correspond to Gorin's Dome and the pit beneath it; that part which has been hollowed out above the roof of the cave being called the dome, and the part below the floor of the cave the pit. The only difference between the two is that in the case of Gorin's Dome the dripping waters have bored their huge shaft on one side of the track of the cave, only just piercing the wall of it in one spot, to make the window through which it is viewed; while in the case of the Side-Saddle Pit the vertical shaft cuts directly across the track of the cave, or, to speak more correctly,

« ПредишнаНапред »